Tribal Council Gets Tough on Mining Policies

December 3, 2014


Last August millions of liters of mine water and waste gushed over the landscape near Likely, BC in Canada and forced operations to shut down at the Imperial Metals open pit, copper and gold mine.


Known as the Mount Polley disaster, the event led to high-level meetings with a group of First Nations from Williams Lake, B.C. whose territory included the area devastated by the pond breach. This has led to the creation of detailed mining policies that will apply to existing, proposed and future projects in its territory.


"This policy isn't about shutting down mining," Jacinda Mack, Northern Shuswap Tribal Council mining coordinator told CBC News. "It's basically saying we have four operational mines in our territory, and how are we going to deal with them in a way that makes them safer, more accountable and more engaged with us".


Under the new policy, mining companies can no longer stake a mineral claim on territory without attempting meaningful consultation with the First Nations. Companies will be held to a polluter pays principle to cover any operational damages and clean-up costs. Environmental stewardship of the area, including potential impacts decades into the future, will be considered before First Nations support any developments.


"It's having to come to us with a clear understanding up front of what we want rather than kind of going though the government," Mack told the CBC. "This is saying we are a level of government in our territory and you need to speak to us as well, and our standards are higher and our level of scrutiny is beyond current mining legislation in B.C."


First Nation Chief Bev Sellars added that the new policy will respect the sovereignty and integrity of the tribal landowners.


"With this mining policy we can no longer be ignored or imposed upon, and the province and industry can no longer claim they do not know how to work with us, this document spells that out in clear, specific terms," Sellers said in a statement.